Trekking through lava and sand: A sustainable tourism initiative in Taal


Last February 2, I booked a tour in a sustainable tourism initiative in San Nicholas, Batangas. It was organized by the local community with the help of makesense Philippines and Primer Group of Companies. It is currently on its pilot stage which will conclude on February 9. The idea is to create a sustainable social enterprise in Taal focused on increasing the livelihood of the locals, educating the tourists about Taal, and promoting environmental conservation in the area.

It’s ironic that the first thing our group sees going to Taal are plastics scattered near the lake. That’s one problem we initially saw along the way. Perhaps a feature of the tour can be something where the guests pick up trash near the lake?

We rode the boat going to the trekking and tourist area.

…and passed by some lush greenery before docking.

I like taking photos of landscapes with my phone. Here’s just one of the picturesque views in Taal during that time.

Here we have our tourist guide explain to us what we’ll be expecting throughout the trek. Fun fact: it’s the community’s first time to tour guests. As I mentioned, this is a sustainable tourism initiative that’s currently in its pilot phase. Me being there during their first successful activity made me feel like I belong in their impactful initiative.

The tourists are attentively listening to the tour guide. We’re ready!

Off we go! The first part of the trek involved walking through volcanic ash. It was rather difficult because our feet would sink through the thick ash–it was indeed an exercise.

Here’s a beautiful view of Taal lake while standing on top of volcanic ash.

My fellow tourists, taking a quick break. That inclined slope is no joke.

We’re almost at the crater of Taal volcano, but before that, time for another quick break with the locals.

…and here we are!

The tour guides said there’s an area in the crater that’s hot enough to cook an egg within seconds. “I could live here”, I said to myself. Unfortunately, they closed off this area due to hazardous reasons, such as a boat toppling over.

After the trek to the crater, we went back to the tourist reception area. What we have waiting for us is… *drum roll*

BOODLE FIGHT! We had tilapia, egg, bananas, and vegetables elegantly laid out on banana leaves.

The boodle fight was amazing. After that, we got more in store for us as we’re still going to view the fish cages and “walk through lava”. Exciting activities ahead!

Going to the fish cages involved a very cool breeze and sweet sailing across the lake. In the photo above, we’re docking beside the fish cages to check out the fishes being grown by the fishermen.

In these fish cages, the fishermen grow bangus and tilapia. There’s also a cat roaming around for whatever reason–maybe it’s waiting for the fishes to grow and then eat them? Leave some for the humans, floofer.

My fellow tourists checking out the fish cages.

This is what they call the “lava walk”, because, quite literally, you’re walking on top of lava. The dark rocks you see on the side are the lava, which was caused by a volcanic eruption decades ago.

After the lava walk, we all went back to the reception area to conduct a feedback session. This is to ensure that the sustainable social enterprise that the local community wants to establish will know points for improvements in time for future tours.

We were able to come up with several strengths and points for improvements in the initiative, which include but are not limited to the following:

  • It would be more proactive if the tour guides also shared local histories and facts about Taal. The idea is to engage the tourists and make them really feel that this is a sustainable tourism initiative. Hence, the tour guides would learn more about communication.
  • Considering this is the first time of the tour guides, they actually did a good job.
  • Other minor technical issues such as broken concrete railings in the trekking path can be easily addressed with the help of the local government.
  • Some safety concerns such as the lack of life vests while riding the boats are also raised. This is also a minor technical issue that can be easily addressed.

I’m pretty sure there will be more challenges for the local community along the way. I believe, however, that they can get through it. Besides, there is strength in numbers. This sustainability initiative reinforced my belief that with the participation of various stakeholders–in this case non-profit organizations, local communities, and corporations–we can make social impact scalable and possible.

After the pilot phase of this tour, the initial idea is that everything will be turned over to the Primer Group of Companies and the local community. Under that setup, Primer will act as the booking platform, whereas the local community will handle all the logistical concerns. Amid all of that, I believe their main challenge would be to consistently send across the sustainability message to all their tourists. With the help of different stakeholders, I believe they will succeed and ultimately make this a sustainable social enterprise.

Let’s take the conversation forward. Find out how we can collaborate for a sustainable future:

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